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After the deadly Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia earlier this year that killed five, some lawmakers wanted to see a speed enforcement system implemented right away. However, this week Congress passed a bill that will delay mandates for railroads to add such safety upgrades.
After the derailing in May, the CEO of Amtrak pledged to make the safety upgrades by the end of the year. However, the new bill will delay the upgrades for 3-5 years. Amtrak has stated that they will try to get it done in three years.
A congressman from PA stated this week that it is everyone’s best interest to delay the safety upgrades until it is possible to get them done safely and fully. He added that if Congress decided to penalize the railroad companies now, it would only lead to reduced rail traffic, which would only hurt consumers.
It saddens us, as railroad accident attorneys, that this derailment ever occurred, and it’s even sadder that the necessary safety upgrades to prevent such tragedies are being delayed. We have seen all too many times how railroad companies will sacrifice public safety for profits. Some of these companies simply put the bottom line for shareholders above all else.
A recent case we handled was where a railroad conductor was hurt on a train car due to an insecure, loose side ladder. He had a serious back injury that required surgery, and he could not return to his job. Of course, the railroad denied they had anything to do with the injury. Our team argued that the loose ladder was a regulatory violation, so we did not have to produce any evidence that the railroad knew about the problem ahead of time.
Through the expert testimony of a railroad safety specialist, we showed that relevant safety appliance act regulations had been violated. We reached an $825,000 settlement.
By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A section of railroad track that was owned by CSX in Lynchburg, Virginia (VA) was set to be replaced – the day after a crude oil trail derailed and broke out in flames.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued this report in late August into the derailment, which occurred on April 30, 2014. The Lynchburg oil train derailment required the evacuation of hundreds of people from downtown.
The NTSB still has not determined the precise cause of the wreck, but should by the end of 2015.
NTSB documents state that the derailment happened at a break point in the track, which means that the rail section was cracked or severed. The break was only a few inches from a repair that was made in January 2014.
The day before the oil train derailed, an inspection of the track section showed there was an internal flaw in that same rail piece. So, CSX planned to replace a 40 foot section of the rail, which was going to be installed on May 1, 2014.
The derailment is one of about nine oil train derailments that have happened in North America since 2013. The biggest and most tragic was the derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people.
In Lynchburg, 17 oil tank cars derailed, with three plunging into the James River and one caught on fire.
Our Virginia railroad accident law office has extensive experience in train accidents and derailments, as well as railroad crossing accidents that were due to train engineer or railroad company negligence. These often preventable mishaps can lead to injury and loss of life, although we are glad the Lynchburg incident resulted in no injuries.
We have represented workers who have been injured by railroad company negligence in the past, such as a CSX conductor who was exposed to asbestos fibers in his work for decades. That case resulted in an $8.6 million verdict.
We hope that CSX and other companies in the industry will put a better focus on safety – both for the safety of the public and the environment.